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MONTHLY MESSAGE AUGUST 2018

Rafqa

In the Office of Readings proposed to celebrate the Assumption of Our Lady, we find a passage taken from the letter to the Ephesians (1,16 – 2,10) in which St Paul states that God “raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus” (2,6). This can happen because of the immense mercy, forgiveness of our Creator. The same forgiveness shown by Jesus to the woman in Simon’s house( Lk 7,48).

Pope Francis, in Amoris Laetitia, commenting the Hymn to Love, suggests forgiveness for the concrete life of the family. Today we can see that conflict, opposition, violence are growing more and more at every level. We, as WUCWO women who want to be sowers of hope, cannot accept it.

We know “that we ourselves have had the experience of being forgiven by God, justified by his grace and not by our own merits. We have known a love that is prior to any of our own efforts, a love that constantly opens doors, promotes and encourages. If we accept that God’s love is unconditional, that the Father’s love cannot be bought or sold, then we will become capable of showing boundless love and forgiving others even if they have wronged us.” (AL 108)

“Those wounded by historical divisions find it difficult to accept our invitation to forgiveness and reconciliation, since they think that we are ignoring their pain or are asking them to give up their memory and ideals. But if they see the witness of authentically fraternal and reconciled communities, they will find that witness luminous and attractive.”(EG 100)  

For us this is a beautiful challenge ,give our contribution for reconciled and fraternal communities. For this first we need to forgive ourselves, accept the way we are, in fact “we recognize that being able to forgive others implies the liberating experience of understanding and forgiving ourselves. Often our mistakes, or criticism we have received from loved ones, can lead to a loss of self-esteem. We become distant from others, avoiding affection and fearful in our interpersonal relationships. Blaming others becomes falsely reassuring. We need to learn to pray over our past history, to accept ourselves, to learn how to live with our limitations, and even to forgive ourselves, in order to have this same attitude towards others.” (AL 107)

 

Further readings

Amoris Laetitia 105 - 108

Evangelii Gaudium 97, 100,

Gaudete et Exsultate 80 – 82

 

Witness

St Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès  (Lebanon)

Rafqa was born in Himlaya, one of the villages of Northern Metn (Lebanon), on June 29, 1832.

She was the only child of Mourad Saber el-Choboq el Rayess and Rafqa Gemayel.

On July 7, 1832 she was baptized and named Boutroussieh. Her parents taught her the love of God and the practice of daily prayer. At age seven, she suffered her first great loss with the death of her mother.

In 1843, her father experienced financial difficulties and sent her into service for four years in the home of Assaad Badawi. Rafqa grew into a beautiful, pleasant, humorous young woman, pure and tender with a serene voice.

In 1841, she returned home to find that her father had remarried. His new wife wanted Rafqa to marry her brother. Conflict developed when her aunt sought to arrange a marriage between her son and Rafqa.
 

At this time, Rafqa felt drawn to the religious life. She asked God to help her achieve her desire and set off for the convent of Our Lady of Deliverance in Bikfaya, accompanied by two girls whom she met along the road.

Following a year of postulancy, Rafqa received the habit of her congregation on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 1861. A year later, she pronounced her first vows.

The new nun, along with sister Mary Gemayel, was assigned to work in the Jesuit-run seminary in Ghazir. Among the seminarians were Elias Houwayek and Boutros el-Zoghbi, later to become Partriarch and Archbishop, respectively.

Rafqa was in charge of kitchen service. In her free time she studied Arabic, calligraphy and mathematics and also helped to educate girls aspiring to join her congregation.

In 1860 Rafqa was sent to Deir el-Kamar to teach catechism. There she witnessed the bloody clashes that occurred in Lebanon during this period. On one occasion, she risked her own life by hiding a child under her robe and saving him from death.

She was to spend the next 26 years in the monastery of St. Simon. In her observation of the rule, her devotion to prayer and silence, in her life of sacrifice and austerity, she was a role model to the other nuns.

On the first Sunday of October 1885, she entered the monastery church and began to pray, asking Jesus to permit her to experience some of the suffering He endured during His passion. Her prayer was immediately answered. Unbearable pains began in her head and moved to her eyes.

Her superior insisted that she undergo medical treatment. After all local attempts to cure her had failed, she was sent to Beirut for treatment. Passing by St. John-Mark's Church in Byblos, her companions learned that an American doctor was traveling in the area. Contacted, he agreed to perform surgery on the afflicted eye. St. Rafqa refused anesthesia. In the course of the surgery, her eye became completely detached. Within a short time, the disease struck the left eye.

For the next 12 years she continued to experience intense pain in her head. Throughout this period, as before, she remained patient and uncomplaining, praying in thanksgiving for the gift of sharing in Jesus' suffering.
 

In 1899, she lost the sight in her left eye. With this a new stage of her suffering began, intensified by the dislocation of her clavicle and her right hip and leg. Her vertebrae were visible through her skin.

Her face was spared and remained shining to the end. Her hands stayed intact; and she used them to knit socks and make clothing. She thanked God for the use of her hands while also thanking Him for permitting her a share in His Son's suffering.

Preparing for death, she called upon the Mother of God and St. Joseph. Finally, on March 23, 1914, after a life of prayer and service, and years of unbearable pain, she rested in peace. She was buried in the monastery cemetery.

Pope John Paul II declared her: Venerable on February 11, 1982; Beatified on November 17, 1985; a role model in the adoration of the Eucharist during the Jubilee Year 2000.

 

Prayer (from Anne Trichet)

Woman of Samaria, whose story transcended the times,

you knew what it meant to go up to the well

and down again to the town, without spilling the fresh, pure water of the biblical mountain,

you guarded this water, precious gift from heaven.

Then, one day, at the edge of the Sychar’s well, the Lord spoke to you ...

Today, the Lord keeps waiting for us in the well of our encounters ...

We can draw from it the water of friendship, the water of truth, the water of hope, the water of peace.

In the desert of routine and solitude,

you are thirsty for giving us to drink …

In the desert of suffering and indifference,

you are thirsty for giving us to drink …

In the desert of failure and division,

you are thirsty for giving us to drink …

In our Wells, Lord,

do we still keep the freshness of living water?

In my heart, Lord,

is there still thirst for living water?

In the noon sunshine of hot days

you come and sit down at the well’s edge to speak to us

and become a spring for all and each of us ...

You, the gift of God ...

Blessed be you, Lord, for the living water of your love which makes us live.

Thank you Lord for this spring of water that illuminates the life of our sisters and brothers that we discover in the well of the encounters of life.

Thank you for making us walk together towards the oasis of peace.

Thank you for watering us with the spring of your living water.

Amen.

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